The first time I saw her overdressed, I was a design student. It was 1967. Her skirt, short and mohair—was accompanied by knee-high, white, patent plastic, lace-up boots and a bold houndstooth check ribbed sweater. I remember too much; the mouton trimmed suede coat, oversized cap with matching scarf, giant white plastic sunglasses overwhelming what might have been perfection. It is all very long ago and very confusing.
The next time I saw her overdressed, I was walking along the Seine gossiping with my fellow vendeuses. And there she stood, wearing all her closet, though the day was warm. Darling Yves—the Gypsy Look—draped every female that year. A long full purple velvet skirt; a bunched and belted blouson blouse, black leather boots, a tapestry vest festooned with faux coins. The turban and fringed piano shawl tipped it to excess. That summer I often saw her drinking Perrier by the river, a Gauloise draped from her well-manicured fingers.
Just a year later, at Studio 54, she again overdressed. She lay on a couch, eyes shut, descending from a cocaine binge. Her spandex pants of electric blue, her yellow sequined tube top, her purple chiffon blouse, they frightened me. She wore green snakeskin platform boots. Her hair, a bright red afro, blended well with the red marabou boa about her neck. I wondered if drugs lead to fashion overdose; then the police raided the disco and I departed, hurrying out before any could notice.
I departed fashion soon after. I moved to South Dakota, where people sensibly attired themselves in worn denim overalls. However, I could not avoid the 80’s, nor the debutante balls. She arrived in Lacroix, fuchsia with sparkling lime-green soutache. A golden gossamer bow in her carefully coiffed hair brought to mind Louis Quatorze. Another and larger bow graced her derriere. Her legs in light pink rhinestone trimmed stockings terminated in feet shod in gold trimmed silver ballet slippers. She caught a chill and donned a bolero jacket. I received a black eye as a wide shoulder pad, stiff with jewel-encrusted Lesage embroidery, smacked my face in passing.
Knowing she would be there, I avoided subsequent debutante balls by moving to Guatemala where people wore soft, shapeless, shabby cottons. I could not purge my memory of fashion; but at least my contact dermatitis, caused by metallic fibers, cleared up.
After six years I returned to high society and the fitting rooms, though I knew she would be there/ The designer would make no difference. She would be overdressed: Issey Miyake, burlap, layers upon layers of odd color combinations with strange, asymmetrical cuts, heavy black hose, Doctor Martin’s boots, a plaid flannel scarf, her hair in dreadlocks, a striped tam crowning her glory.
“Yes, madam?” My voice dripped ennui, seeing the arrogant mess, its shape more changeable than my own. “You have always chosen your own style, why call you to me?”
“I am weary of my clothes, oh chic Vendeuse,” said she. “May I have a do-over?”
“My pleasure, madam,” I humbly replied, then glided off to find her that perfect Chanel suit with suitable and comfortable mid-heel pumps, sheer silk stockings in a natural hue, simple and discreet gold necklace and earrings. An Hermes handbag completed the ensemble. I gave her the numbers of a proper hairstylist and an esteemed aesthetician. I made her happy. She paid me well.
Copyright 2012 Lisa Sergienko